Frequently Asked Budget Questions

Carroll County Public Schools, like many organizations across the country, has been affected by the recession, increasing costs, and decreasing revenues. To meet the challenge presented by the anticipated budget shortfall, CCPS has been, and will continue to, identify and analyze current and proposed expenditures for possible cost savings.

Reviews of and responses to specific suggestions are underway and will be posted upon completion.

 

Increases in (Fixed) Costs 

Question: Why has Carroll County Public Schools needed to make budget cuts over the last 4 years?

Answer: Non-restricted revenues (i.e. non-grant revenues) remain essentially the same in fiscal year 2013 as they were in fiscal year 2009. During that same time period, expenses continued to increase. More detailed information is available in this document.

 

Budget Reductions

Question:  What actual expenditures has Carroll County Public Schools cut?
 
Answer: Non-restricted revenues (i.e. non-grant revenues) remain essentially the same in fiscal year 2013 as they were in fiscal year 2009. During that same time period, expenses continued to increase. More detailed information is available in this document.

BOE Funding % of County Budget

Question: How much of the county government’s operating budget has gone to the Carroll County Public Schools and how much do they plan to provide according to their current operating plan?
 
Answer: Over recent history (the last 15 years), the county has averaged providing the school system with a little more than 50% of the county’s operating budget. Their current operating plan approved last spring, if followed, would just meet this level in fiscal year 2014 before accounting for the increased contributions for pensions required by the State. In the years beyond this, the operating plan calls for no increases in operating funding except for additional required pension funding. Even with the increased costs for pension included, the county forecasts only providing 45.7% of their income by fiscal year 2018. Click here to see several charts showing this decline in the school system’s share of total county funding in visual and numeric formats.
 

Maintenance of Effort 

Question: What is maintenance of effort and how does it impact Carroll County Public Schools’ funding?

Answer: Maintenance of effort is a part of State law governing funding provided by the county government to the school system. It essentially sets a floor, or minimum funding level, that the county must provide to the school system. The county may not decrease funding, when calculated on a per pupil basis, from year to year. This means that in times of increasing enrollment, the total minimum amount of funding increases; conversely, in times of declining enrollment a county can decrease total funding provided to the school system. For further information, please click here.
 
 

State Aid Calculations

Question: What are the major factors in the calculation of state aid and how do they impact the amount of revenue Carroll County Public Schools receives?

Answer: The major factors in the calculation of state aid are as follows:

  • County Wealth – funding distributed by formulas inversely proportional to local district wealth (personal property; income and real property for railroads, utilities, businesses and individuals)
  • Enrollment – funding is adjusted based on a per pupil formula for changes in enrollment
  • Inflation Factor – funding is adjusted annually to reflect changes in the cost of providing goods and services

For further explanation of each of these factors, please click here.

 

Student Transportation

Question: Why did the school system change school starting and ending times and what else is it doing to control student transportation costs?

Answer: To make more effective and economical use of school buses, the Transportation Department reviewed its operations and determined that by adjusting school starting and ending times it could realize significant savings by reducing the number of school buses needed to transport students to and from school. This and other transportation cost saving initiatives are discussed in the attached document.

 

Utilities

Question: What is the Carroll County Public School System doing to reduce/control utility costs?

Answer: This is a complex area and there are a number of strategies in use throughout the system. They are discussed in this document.

 

Administrative Efficiency

Question: What steps is the school system taking to be more efficient in its administrative operations?

Answer: The Payroll Office has eliminated the printing and mailing of direct deposit payroll vouchers. Employees are able to access a virtual image of their payroll voucher through the Employee Access Center website, which maintains these electronic images, as well as W-2s, for employees to access at their convenience at any time. In addition to printing and voucher stock, postage for mailing the documents to temporary employees (hourly or substitute workers) is saved. By combining this initiative with the mailing of payroll checks for the limited number of employees not taking advantage of direct deposit, special courier runs to every school and cost center each payday have been eliminated. It is estimated that this saves $42,599 in fiscal year 2012 and again in subsequent years.

 

Other Revenue Generation

Question: Does Carroll County Public Schools seek additional sources of revenue besides tax dollars and fees?

Answer: The Finance and Purchasing Departments have initiated and/or expanded several initiatives to generate additional revenue for the school system. These revenues go back into the general fund and are budgeted alongside traditional funding sources in the non-restricted operating budget. These initiatives are discussed in this document.

 

Salary Increase

Question: Why did CCPS negotiate a salary increase for the 2012-2013 school year given the difficult budgets we’ve been facing?

Answer: Prior to the 2012-2013 school year CCPS employees had not received a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) or Step Increase for three years (employees received the equivalent of a 2% increase for the 2008-2009 school year). By holding salaries flat between 2008-2009 and 2012-2013 employee compensation has eroded CCPS salary comparisons relative to our surrounding counties. Because there has been no COLA applied to the teachers’ salary scale, the Carroll County starting teacher salary continues to rank dead last in the state of Maryland. Even after the step increment in 2012-2013 our professional instructional salaries are in the bottom half for minimum, mean, median, and maximum salary almost across the board when compared to our surrounding and comparison counties (Baltimore, Frederick, Howard, Harford, Washington, and Charles).

Several informative charts showing CCPS salaries in comparison to peer school systems are available here.

 

Fund Balance Reserve

Question: What is fund balance reserve and can it be used to balance the operating budget?

Answer: Fund balance reserves result when revenues exceed expenditures for a given fiscal year. CCPS fund balance reserves are governed by Board of Education Policy DBDA which states that fund balance reserves shall not accumulate to exceed 5% of the current year operating budget (e.g., the current limit is approximately $15 million) and fund balance reserves shall only be used to offset one-time, non-recurring expenses. 

We recognize that maintaining a fund balance reserve makes good business and operational sense. A reserve account can help to minimize the impact on operations of the school system when unexpected, one-time expenses occur. For example, an unexpected spike in utility costs, fuel for busses, or medical insurance claims could be covered by, and would be good uses of, fund balance reserves. 

Conversely, current budget shortfalls caused by anticipated permanent revenue reductions and permanent inflationary expenditure increases are not good uses of fund balance reserves. Due to the one-time nature of reserve funds, prudent fiscal management dictates that these funds shall only be used to offset non-recurring expenditures. 

 

Cutting Positions Instead of Elsewhere

Question: Why do Board of Education budget reductions focus primarily on personnel items?

Answer: We focus primarily on personnel items because between salaries, wages, and fringe benefits, 82% of our operating budget expenditures are tied to personnel. We have reduced and will continue to look for efficiencies in the other areas of the budget, but due to the size of the reductions we’ve had to make, we’ve been forced to reduce positions.  For further information, including areas in which the school system has made reductions and a look at the portion of the budget tied to personnel, please click here.

 

Furloughs

Question: Could we furlough employees instead of reducing the number of staff positions?

Answer: A furlough is the placement of an employee in a temporary, non-duty, non-pay status (i.e., time off without pay) for budget-required reasons. Organizations cut costs through the use of furlough days in order to deal with reduced budgets. Furloughs allow an organization to reduce labor costs temporarily without layoffs.   

The drawback to furloughs is that they do not permanently reduce the budget. They are best used as a stopgap measure to deal with unanticipated revenue downturns after the fiscal year has begun.   

Carroll County Public Schools has considered furloughs and determined that they are not the best strategy at this time. Due to impending permanent revenue reductions, we believe permanent expenditure reductions are a more appropriate action. 

Furloughs remain an option in the future.